The Art Of Fashion
As an Art History graduate I have a true love of art, my other main love is fashion and I have always been fascinated in how the two seemingly opposite themes are actually closely intertwined and have been throughout history.
Just as artists have called upon classical stories and myths for subject matters in their paintings, many fashion designers have turned to artists for inspiration and have been influenced by contemporary art movements.
The most standout example of this was in 1965 when Yves Saint Laurent designed a shift dress featuring a printed version of a
painting from the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. The non-figurative “Composition With Red, Yellow and Blue” was created by the abstract artist in the 1930s as part of the abstract neoplasticism movement and featured geometric shapes and blocks of primary colours.
The designer Elsa Schiaparelli is a prime example of the influence of art in fashion during the 1920s and 1930s. She had multiple connections to artists of contemporary movements such as Cubism and Surrealism, and collaborated with artists such as Salvador Dalí and Christian Bérard. Her exquisite and innovative coat from 1937, was the work of a collaboration with the artist and poet Jean Cocteau, the two profiles that face each other allude to Cocteau’s fixation with the double image, which also was of particular interest for other Surrealist artists.
I saw for myself the impact that art has on fashion when I attended the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition in May at the Barbican. In the very first section of the exhibition a mannequin was adorned in a beautiful couture dress that boasted vivid colours and an eye-catching design. The design was heavily influenced by Renaissance paintings of the Madonna featuring a Botticelli style female figure and winged cherubs whilst multiple images of the Virgin adorn the bodice.
The painted photograph in the exhibition by Pierre Et Gilles also draws heavily upon the Renaissance. Entitled “The Virgin and the Serpents” it takes on a popular theme for Renaissance paintings depicting a religious or mythical subject matter. The format of having the central female figure displayed against an ornate backdrop was a typical mode for representing the Virgin Mary and it wasn’t uncommon for the image to be set against a gold background. The glittering border of the photograph alludes to this aspect of Renaissance depiction whilst the shape is similar to that of church windows, an archetypal feature of Renaissance paintings. The feature of Kylie Minogue, widely regarded as the Princess of Pop, adds a contemporary edge to the photo and could reference the cult of celebrity, fashion and music as the religion of the modern day.
In the early 1990s Versace called upon art historical influences for the spring collection in 1991. The collection featured dresses that were printed with the iconic images of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean first seen in the 1960s created by Andy Warhol in the Pop Art movement.
Similarly, the bright monogrammed Louis Vuitton bags featuring bold colours and cherry prints (we all wanted one) were the result of a collaboration with the artist Takashi Murakami, a kind of post modernist fashion and art in my opinion.
The reworking of famous paintings and influences of art movements into fashion opens up a wider audience for art and allows it to reach people it may not ordinarily do and gives it a new edge and dimension as an article that can be worn as opposed to an article that can be viewed.